Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cooking, Light & Satisfying

Cooking, Light and Satisfying

Chris and I are trying to use up some of the bounty of our garden harvest, hence the corn and poblano chowder last night and also, tonight’s dinner.

I actually started the prep for tonight’s dinner last night, because it is certainly a time consuming dish. It is not an every week type of dinner. It is very tasty, hearty and filling, though. The picture doesn’t necessarily do it justice, but hey, I’m a chef, not a photographer!

Actually, I have a great deal of respect for people who can photograph food and make it look good. A lot of the stuff I make looks good on the plate, but in photo’s…well…let’s just say it loses something in the translation.

Anyway, we grew some cabbage in our garden. The purple cabbage did pretty well, but didn’t get huge. The green cabbage suffered multiple slug and bug attacks and didn’t grow very large at all. I did have to supplement my purple cabbage with some store bought, but it is organic, so that will have to do.

This is another recipe courtesy of Cooking Light magazine (check them out at It is very hearty, filling and flavorful. I, of course, used their recipe as inspiration, and made a few tweaks to it based on what I had on hand and my tastes.

Whole Grain & Italian Sausage Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Their recipe is as follows:

Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 2 cabbage rolls and about 1/3 cup sauce)
• 2 cups water
• 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, crushed (about 1/2 ounce)
• 1 1/4 cups uncooked bulgur
• 2 teaspoons butter
• 1 teaspoon olive oil
• 1 cup finely chopped onion
• 2/3 cup finely chopped celery
• 2/3 cup finely chopped carrot
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 pound hot turkey Italian sausage
• 12 large Savoy cabbage leaves
• 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
• 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
• 2 teaspoons brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1. Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in mushrooms; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes.
2. Uncover pan; bring mushroom mixture to a boil. Stir in bulgur; cover, remove from heat, and let stand 30 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Spoon bulgur mixture into a large bowl.
3. Heat butter and oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and garlic to pan; sauté 7 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Add vegetables to bulgur mixture; cool slightly. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove casings from sausage. Crumble sausage into bulgur mixture; stir well to combine.
4. Add water to a large Dutch oven to a depth of 2 inches; set a large vegetable steamer in pan. Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add cabbage leaves to steamer. Steam cabbage, covered, 6 minutes or until tender and pliable. Remove cabbage from steamer (do not drain water). Rinse cabbage with cold water; drain and pat dry.
5. Working with one cabbage leaf at a time, place 1/2 cup bulgur mixture in center of leaf. Fold in edges of leaf; roll up. Repeat procedure with the remaining cabbage leaves and bulgur mixture to form 12 cabbage rolls. Stack rolls evenly in steamer.
6. Return Dutch oven to medium-high heat; bring water to a boil. Steam rolls, covered, 30 minutes, adding more water if necessary.
7. Combine tomatoes, red wine vinegar, and sugar in saucepan; cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in parsley. Serve sauce with rolls.

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, Cooking Light, MAY 2008

A great recipe, but as you can see, it is a LOT of work.

I started last night by rehydrating the mushrooms, cooking the bulgur wheat and sautéing the carrots, onions, celery (which I prepped in my food processor!). I combined all that and let it cool and then stuck it in the fridge.

Tonight I got out my defrosted ground Italian sausage (I didn’t have links, nor did I have hot) and crumbled it in a bowl. To that I added some celery seed, dried oregano, salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, and garlic powder. I didn’t measure, just pinch or sprinkle and toss in there till it looked like enough to season a pound of sausage.

I then mixed that all together with my hands and then crumbled the sausage mixture into the bulgur mixture, which I had re-heating over low heat on the stove.

Making the rolls themselves is a bit of a pain in the patootie. My best advice: core the cabbage, and steam or microwave the entire head for a couple of minutes to try and make the individual leaves separate a little easier. Not much, mind you, but a little.

We used both purple and green cabbage leaves and had much more than 12 leaves, but they were more medium to small size than large. The larger the leaves the easier your stuffing and rolling. We had a pretty significant amount of stuffing left over, which I think I am going to use with some of the smaller remaining cabbage leaves to make a casserole style dish with the same ingredients.

Finish by steaming the stuffed rolls and topping with the tomato sauce.

For me this dish has a very similar feel and taste to meatloaf. Very comforting and great for the first dinner of fall. I think it was very helpful to break the prep up into two nights. I served this with a nice red wine and nothing else. There is actually a lot of leftover rolls, so we will be eating those for lunches through the weekend.

As always, if you decide to try this out, let me know your thoughts and any changes you made. Cooking is all about the experimenting process and sharing the results!

As Julia Child would say: Bon Appetite!



It has been a little while since I posted about food or cooking. Tonight though, I made a delicious dinner that Chris said was an “A++” dinner. Coming from Chris, that is a big compliment, especially because the dinner was soup and Chris 1) really doesn’t care much for soup and 2) really doesn’t care much for “just soup” for dinner.

The only drawback is that I didn’t take a picture! Oh well, this one is very similar to what I made.

Here is the recipe for my delicious A++ dinner. It was pretty spicy by my standards and just right spicy by Chris’ standards. Use more or less poblano or other peppers to your level of spice and taste.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think!

This is my own creation, with inspiration from a Cooking Light recipe.

Hearty Poblano Corn Chowder

4 medium and 4 small poblano peppers, roasted, seeded and diced
1 T olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 T minced garlic
3 cups (16 oz) corn (can be canned, frozen or fresh off the cob-if canned drain, if frozen defrost)
2 cups rice milk or fat free milk
1 T butter, optional
¼ cup half and half, optional
generous sprinkle of salt
generous sprinkle of pepper
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

blue corn chips or tortillas for garnish

Makes 4 servings approximately 1 cup per serving

Roast poblano peppers in the oven or on a hot grill until they are charred well on all sides. Place in plastic zip top bag and let steam for 15 minutes to make removing the skin easier. Remove the skin, top and seeds of the poblanos. Dice the poblanos. Add olive oil to medium hot skillet. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are soft; add the diced poblanos and sauté 2-3 minutes more to heat thorough. Add 1 cup corn to pan and sauté/pan roast for 3-4 more minutes or until corn starts to soften and brown slightly. Add ½ cup of milk to pan. Heat mixture to simmer; continue to simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Take the remaining 1 ½ cups of milk and 2 cups of corn and puree in a food processor or blender until smooth. Add to corn and pepper mixture, along with butter and half and half if using. Stir to combine and heat through. Sprinkle with generous amount of salt and fresh cracked black pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with 2 tablespoons of grated cheddar per bowl. Garnish with blue corn chips or tortillas.

Bon Appetite!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Labor Day Weekend 2010-A visit with friends.

Labor Day Weekend 2010

Oh my gosh! How lucky are Chris and I to have such great friends? Beyond lucky!

Labor Day Weekend we were so lucky to have some great friends come and visit us for the weekend. Corey Hanley, Rochelle Owens, Kelsey Burns, Me and Chris from left to right in the photo.

Corey, Rochelle and Kelsey all came down from Portland to spend the weekend hanging out with us. We had such a great time. Friday night we grilled ribs and sat around bs’ing.

Saturday we relaxed with our coffee and enjoyed the sun before heading out to Lost Creek Reservoir to spend an awesome day on the boat.

We took a TON of pictures.

The guys were silly, as usual and us girls got to sit in the sun (or shade) and gossip and visit.

It was gorgeously hot and sunny and peaceful. We laughed and ate and drank and just wasted the last “Saturday of summer” away on the water. Couldn’t have been a better day.

Sunday we decided to head south. South to California. Redding to be specific, as two of our guests had never been to the In N Out! Unbelievable, I know. So we loaded up in the burb and took off for extra hot and sunny Redding California.

We had a great drive and enjoyed our burgers.

We also stopped by Lake Shasta.

We checked out the Shasta Dam (where we are at in the top photo) and then also stopped at a couple of different places on the lake to explore and hang out.

We did some people watching and the boys found another guy with a jet boat to bs with. (Corey has a jet boat, too).

After a relaxing afternoon hanging at Shasta we headed north, back to Oregon. But WAIT! We had to stop by the Liquor Expo! Liquor is cheaper in Cali than in Oregon ya know. Well, unfortunately we passed the exit! NO worries said captain Chris as he pulled a U-Turn on the freeway using one of those gravel emergency vehicle access spots! Lots of screaming and laughter ensued from the back seat as the plume of gravel dust swirled behind us. Not to worry…there was no traffic and we could see for miles. We were never in danger but it made for a good giggle! And, of course, we were able to purchase discount liquor, which was very important!

We were home late and exhausted, but with smiles on our faces.

Monday our guests thought they were going to head home, but change of plans! The boys went fishing and us girls went and had lunch and then did a little wine tasting at a very local winery (about 5 minutes from the house).

After that we just decided to relax on the sunny patio and enjoy the afternoon.

Chris and I really had such a great and fun time. We all just got along so great and there was no drama or silliness. I just really want to thank Corey, Rochelle, Kelsey and Chris for such an awesome weekend. You guys are the best! I can’t wait to do it again soon!

August Harvest 2010

August 2010

If you have a garden you know that August is when all the work happens. Oh yes, in the spring there is work getting the soil ready and doing the planting, but all gardeners know the real work happens in August.

August is when the harvest happens and when it happens, it happens all at once!

If you’ve been reading and following along, you know that in April we planted 5 raised garden beds with all manner of stuff. We added more things as time went on. Some things did incredibly well, while others never managed to even get started.

Some of our success stories were the potatoes and the cucumbers. They did very well. Our corn did decent, but we were out of town the weekend it was really ready to be picked, so by the time we got to it, it was a bit past its prime. We had a great showing of basil and the peppers have done better than I expected.

We had to pull our brussel sprouts as they got attacked by bugs. The edemame grew a handful of beans, but nothing too exciting there. The cantaloupe and the watermelon fruited, but never grew big. I heard from my local farm stand that many people had that problem with their fruits and vegetables this year. They fruited, but never grew.

So, overall, I would say that our garden did reasonably well for our first time with a big garden. We have just planted a few “fall” items, so we haven’t given up on the idea yet!

Some of what we have done with our bounty: dill and bread and butter pickles, blanched and froze the corn and a majority of the potatoes. We have made several batches of pesto and frozen it, along with what we have used fresh. We have had several wonderful homemade salsas using our fresh peppers and some of our own fresh tomatoes. Our tomatoes were one of the things that did not do so well this year.

I have been going to the local farm stand every week and buying as much of my produce from there as I can. I also decided that I was going to try a few new things. We bought a dehydrator and have dried some of the cayenne peppers and then ground them up for our own fresh cayenne pepper! I have dried peaches, tomatoes, apples and bananas.

I have taken some of the dried tomatoes and added some fresh basil and olive oil to a jar and am making my own sun dried tomato and basil infused olive oil.

Chris and I also went blackberry picking several times this summer. We have four, very full, gallon bags of frozen blackberries in our freezer, in addition to 4 pints of blackberry freezer jam and two separate blackberry pies.

I also prepared and canned 45lbs of tomatoes into a seasoned tomato sauce. That was A LOT of work for 5 quarts of sauce. I might do that a little differently next year.

I have made several pints of homemade salsa and canned that as well.

We have both had a lot of fun with all of our garden bounty and the preparation and preserving of that bounty. We are looking forward to using our preserved foods throughout the fall and winter. It has been so much fun (and still is) to walk outside and come back in with a handful of this or that to add to our dinner.

Speaking of, last night I made shrimp stuffed poblano peppers with a side salad of corn, radish and avocado with herb dressing. The poblano’s are fresh from our own garden. It was a very tasty dish.

We have made some notes and ideas for changes to our garden for next year, things like more beans and peas, more tomatoes, space the corn out more, etc.

The fall garden has been planted with a few things like garlic, onions, some fall lettuces, rutabegas and parsnips. We might add a few other cold weather crops a bit later. Chris has a plan for building a little greenhouse top over the bed to protect the plants through the winter.

As of now, the garden is starting to look a little worse for wear and empty as things are starting to die back and we have pulled several things out already, but we have really enjoyed the process and are excited for next year.

July 2010

This photo captures what our summer was all about!

Well my friends, the majority of July and the entire month of August and now half the month of September have passed with no updates from me.

I have had such an amazing summer. The best summer I have had in a long, long time. Our summer was filled with fun, friends, food and adventures.

After the fourth of July, the big doings was our trip with some great friends to Lake Billy Chinook for a weekend of camping and boating. Chris and I had never been to Billy Chinook before, but it lived up to the hype in every way. It was gorgeous, huge, hot and sunny. We camped for two nights with three other couples, one child, McKenna (poor thing-hanging out with all us adults!) and three dogs.

We rolled in Friday night and spent the evening socializing and relaxing. Saturday morning we were out on the water by about 10:30 and spent the entire day relaxing and checking out the lake.

By mid afternoon we had a need for some shade and Miss McKenna wanted to go on the “fast” boat. Apparently she was tired, too.

This is McKenna totally zonked out on the boat. So sweet. :-)

Later that night Chris and I prepped dinner for the crew, serving marinated beef, chicken and veggie skewers, along with my famous (recipe stolen from a good friend) pasta salad. It is the easiest pasta salad in the world to make, and a huge hit with almost everyone. It is GREAT for potlucks and parties.

Sunday we got on the road after breakfast (provided by Charlie and Julie-Thank you it was delicious!). On our way back we stopped along part of the Rogue River and took a few pictures.

On our way up to Lake Billy we discovered another lake that is about 40 minutes from our house. We had no idea it was there. It is a big reservoir called Lost Creek Reservoir. The following weekend we took our boat out there for the first time. It was awesome! It is not a busy lake; there is plenty of room to go and lots of little coves and beaches to hang out.

Plus, best of all, Chris’ pager and phone work at the lake, so it is someplace we can go, even when he is on call.

The rest of July flashed by in a blink and then we were into August.

I was back in school and Chris was working, of course, but we still managed to do a lot of fun things. The end of July I rode with Chris to the beach for a couple of days. It is always very relaxing for me to go because I have NOTHING that I have to do. I read and relax and enjoy the sunsets.

Chris had a class in Portland one week so I rode along and we spent three days in Portland. We had an awesome time. The weather even cleared up for us while we were there! We went to an excellent Happy Hour at Hayden’s Lake Front Grill in Tualatin with some good friends, where we laughed and laughed and drank wine and enjoyed lovely company. We did some excellent people watching there. Who knew there were actual call girls in Tualatin?

The following day we spent with some other friends at the Tualatin Crawfish Festival. It was fun, but really hot! Our friend Danny ate some crawfish (no thank you!), we saw some other friends as were wandering through the exhibits, did a little wine tasting and then decided it was time to cool off. We spent the rest of the day on our friends’ boat on Haag Lake in Forest Grove. It was wonderful. Our other Lake Billy Chinook boating/camping friends were there, too. It was great to have no boat ownership responsibilities and be able to just hang out and relax on the water. That night we enjoyed the hot tub at Danny & Sarah’s where we were treated with several shooting stars from the Perseid Meteor shower. All in all, it was a fabulous weekend; very rejuvenating.

We had lots of great times with friends all throughout the summer and feel really blessed to have such great and caring friends in our lives. We really appreciate all of them for letting us stay at their houses while we are in town and for making the trips down here to see us.

More on August in an upcoming post!